Santa Monica Lookout
|Former Santa Monica City Council Candidate Takes to the Internet to Protest Development||
By Jason Islas
Residocracy.org, founded by former City Council candidate Armen Melkonians, is the latest resident group to spring up in an ongoing battle over the future of development in the bayside city.
“This isn’t about personal, political gain,” Melkonians told The Lookout Tuesday. Melkonians made his first bid for City Council in 2012. He came in 11th out of 15 with 2,886 votes. ("Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights Sweeps Elections," November 7, 2012)
While he said that he is certain that he will make another Council bid in the future, he still isn’t certain about this year.
“I want to see what Residocracy can do,” he said.
Melkonians, an environmental engineer, hopes that the site will stop what he considers to be runaway development in the bayside city.
“Residocracy is a unified voice of the Residents against corporate, business, and outside influences at City Hall,” he wrote on the website’s blog beneath a picture of the United States Constitution.
“When government fails, it becomes necessary for individuals to act,” he wrote. “Residocracy.org provides the direct democracy tools necessary to unite individual residents into a Community Network whose collective voice and inherent democratic powers can and will make a difference.”
Both of those projects have roused the ire of some residents who believe that they would block views, add to traffic congestion and otherwise decrease the local quality of life.
Located at the old Papermate factory site opposite the future location of a major Expo Light Rail stop, the Bergamot Transit Village project has some residents worried that its size will bring too much traffic. (“Santa Monica's Powerful Renters' Rights Group Wants More Housing at Bergamot Transit Village,” October 22, 2013)
At about 740,000 square feet, the proposed mixed-use project would include about 500 housing units, 374,000 square feet of creative office space and about 30,000 square feet of neighborhood commercial space.
While proponents of the project argue that its proximity to the future light rail stop make the project’s size and mix ideal for the location, opponents don’t buy it.
“I feel that my concerns about the increases in traffic and congestion in Our Town has not been heard by the majority of our elected officials, and its time that you listen to your constituents,” reads the “e-petition” against the project on Residocracy.org.
The City Council will is expected to vote on the project later this month.
The other major project singled out on Melknonians’ site is a proposed $255 million overhaul of the 86-year-old Miramar Hotel.
Among other things, opponents to the project have said that the design, with a proposed 21-story tower, is much too tall for Santa Monica. (“Santa Monica Miramar Hotel Unveils Revised Redevelopment Plans,” February 21, 2013)
“Simply put, this project is just too big and too tall for Santa Monica and it should not receive your discretionary approval,” reads the petition on Meloknians’ site.
While the function is not yet available on the site, Melkonians hopes Residocracy.org will help gain momentum for referenda of Council decisions members of the group do not like.
“If enough support is obtained through the E•Petition process, on any issue, and the City Council ignores the Resident Community Network's E•Petition, then Residocracy.org™ will automatically generate a Referendum, or R•Petition, that will attempt to Veto the City Council's decision on the issue,” the site reads.
“If just 10% of the registered voters signatures are verified on any R•Petition the Veto of the Residents is automatically effective,” site reads. “The City Council must either cancel their original decision or effectively suspend it and place the issue in front of the General Public during the next General Election for their consideration.”
As of press time, The Lookout was unable to verify whether any Council decision could be overturned by “R-Petition.”
Melkonians said that Residocracy.org will be governed by a board but that, as of press time, it hadn’t been assembled.
Santa Monica residents are no strangers to using the Internet to rally supporters to their causes.
Last year, a coalition of opponents of Santa Monica Airport launched Airport2Park.org to galvanize support for closing the nearly century-old airport and converting the 227-acre parcel into a park.
While Airport2Park.org is primarily a tool to keep people informed of ongoing developments with the airport and to organize community events, Residocracy.org goes a step further, promising that the site will have a direct political impact.
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